The work of art I think of most often is “My Bed”, Tracey Emin’s bed recreated in 1998 and currently exhibited in London, at the Tate. Not just because any of my beds are so much messier and the fact that I have never met a Charles Saatchi (the multimillion-dollar collector who made Emin an art world star) really feels like an injustice – to me, but also to the public, who was deprived of the work in progress “Decades of unmade beds surrounded by the rubble of pizzas at home and Adelphi with the rims of badly placed wine glasses on top”.
I often think about it because today Tracey Emin would never become an esteemed artist who likes people, at most an influencer with millions of hearts: today, if you have a messy house and you are an exhibitionist, you put the photos on Instagram, you don’t want to. in mind to reproduce domestic chaos in an art gallery.
Today you would photograph that unmade bed with your phone and publish it on Instagram, with the background of Baglioni who begs «come on, make that bed up»; Followers would be as fond of you as they are of human cases, and at that point you could sell them diet bars, coffee machines, nail polishes.
Today your installation is you: you were also in Tracey Emin’s time, of course (the unmade bed, the curtain with the names of the men with whom she had shared the bed, including the names of the two aborted fetuses), but when the work arrived to be on display you could forget about it. Today, you can never forget about yourself if your work takes place within the economy of the self.
Instagram killed contemporary art far more than video killed radio stars (no death is ever definitive, and the punishment for believing that song is podcasts: we’ll expiate hearing people ripping it off for eternity).
I say this aware that reality is believing me: today the exhibition of Damien Hirst (another Saatchi puppy) opens at the Borghese Gallery, and therefore contemporary art is very lively and indeed in this exhibition it dialogues with the ancients (those who artists had to know how to paint, draw, sculpt, in short, do something: I know, I’m a relic of the twentieth century, imagine that I still believe that, to be a songwriter, you must have a vocabulary of more than twenty-seven words).
Hirst has no complex in being exhibited in the same room where Bernini’s sculptures reside, let alone: everyone was contemporary, in his day, he told Robinson who interviewed him.
Then he also said “I like Caravaggio, for heaven’s sake, but then it’s a matter of taste” and “are we sure that Bernini sculpted entirely by himself?”, And perhaps Instagram did this too: it exposed us to so much megalomania that we let them say things like that without coppini the guy who says them.
I suspect it killed literature too, I’ll tell you. Every time I look at the Instagram stories of Wanna Marchi’s daughter, who announces that she has become Fabrizio Corona’s agent, or who lets herself be complacent with a plate with a kilo of caviar on it, I think that, if in the Eighties there had been Instagram, Bret Easton Ellis would have opened a chiringuito: what do you write “Less than zero” to do, if reality overtakes you in the emergency lane with the high beams on?
The daughter of Wanna Marchi harangues against those who cry about the crisis, “The crisis is for the bankrupt”, Hirst says he is increasingly a multimillionaire since “with the pandemic we spent more time at home, we needed more paintings to put on the walls »: find the small differences.
Of course, furnishing your home with the spirit of potatoes is a problem, and after all Hirst does that: the witty. How else to define the head of the “unidentified” pharaoh which is actually a portrait of Pharrell Williams, Kate Moss captioned as an Egyptian of the thirteenth century BC, and who knows what enjoyment if you do not understand the references, if you are not physiognomist, if the The staging of the exhibition does not help you by maintaining the fiction that those really are Egyptian statues, and at the end of the captions there is not even the little face that winks at the contemporary public.
The first time this idea – the sunken ship from which Hirst would have recovered the period statues – was exhibited in Venice four years ago, the New York Times titled “Will collectors give a damn?”.
At the time, Hirst solved that contemporary detail by saying that our rejection of the present comes from thieving governments: it is because we are ruled by corrupt people that we prefer to take refuge in the past. For that reason, not because Bernini was quarrying the “Rape of Proserpina” from marble and Hirst delegates one of his three hundred workers (now he says they are reduced to fifty: will it be that bankruptcy stuff called “crisis”?) To stuff a shark.
The only unanswered question, in this unsettled time, is why every bluff is allowed and indeed encouraged, so that Hirst can consider himself better than Caravaggio, illiterate lyricists can consider themselves to be in the same profession as Guccini, but the only one who with the spirit of the time he ends up in jail instead of Wanna Marchi in glory.